"Leviathan" is a word used figuratively for a "cruel enemy." It is also the title of director/writer Andrey Zvyagintsev's magnificent new film inspired by the Book of Job. The irony which quietly lurks beneath its surface is not lost on the fact that it takes place in modern day Russia.
Koyla (Alexei Serebriakov) lives in a small picturesque Russian fishing town near the Barents Sea. He has been there since birth. As of late, he can't catch a break. The corrupt and powerful mayor is determined to take Koyla's home and business which are beautifully perched over-looking his village. An old army buddy, Dimitri, who is now a Moscow lawyer, has agreed to help Koyla fight the injustice perpetrated by the evil politician.
It gets worse. Koyla's wife initiates an affair with Dimitri and when it is discovered, tragedy ensues. The Russian state in its complicity with the local authorities and church prevail. Further condemnation is unjustly imposed upon Koyla and all is lost.
The grandeur of exquisite cinematography clashing with the political brutality within a nasty regime unexpectedly pairs well. The beauty of what Koyla loses is almost more revered than his own existence. What eventually occupies the coveted space that he held so dear becomes the greatest irony of all.
"Leviathan" is not all doom and gloom. It possesses moments of levity which lend vast insight into the characters who inhabit this philosophically charged film. A smirky, smarmy photo of Putin hangs on the wall in the mayor's office as though its placement ensures loyalty. And when Koyla's friends venture out on a picnic replete with vodka and firearms, their targets include large photos of former Soviet leaders.
There's not a whole lot of spirit lifting (aside from the constant hoisting of vodka bottles) in this powerful film. It's as though Zvyagintsev is pointing out the fact that life isn't fair in "Leviathan" or anywhere else for that matter. A cruel enemy may prevail in the end but the human spirit never ceases to exist ready to fight for that which is right.